ben watt

Review: 30 Years Later Ben Watt Hasn’t Lost His Finesse On New ‘Hendra’ LP

It’s been over 30 years since Ben Watt released a solo album, North Marine Drive. In that time, he has had a more varied career than most of his contemporaries. As half of alt-folk darlings turned dance pop superstars Everything But the Girl with wife Tracey Thorn, Watt elevated electronica to a fresh level of mainstream viability with songs like “Missing” and “Wrong” long before anyone dreamed up “EDM.” Further immersing himself in beats, Watt became a DJ, producer, remixer, and promoter, ultimately launching his own party Lazy Dog, and record label, Buzzin’ Fly – check his classic take on Sade’s “By Your Side” or his collaboration with Estelle on “Pop a Cap in Yo Ass” for primers on his template-setting deep house touch. Like Tracey, Ben is also an author and has written two well-received memoirs. On a heavier note, he has also dealt with an autoimmune disease, the recent deaths of his father and sister, and found himself at a mid-life crossroads – “a pop musician in an electronic world.”

All of these experiences have been distilled eloquently through Watt’s imagination into not one, but two touching and personal works: his most recent memoir, Romany and Tom (about his creative parents’ complex relationship, out in June on Bloomsbury Press) and his new album, Hendra (out April 29, on Unmade Road). The concurrent release of both the book and the album provide a stereo glance into Watt’s life and creativity. Here’s a man, a husband, father, artist who has spent much of his life in the spotlight, just as his parents had aspired to in their day. The echoes of history may haunt Watt, but in his music and books, Ben has wrestled his way through the thickets with earnest and rhythmic writing that is confessional without feeling solipsistic, poignant without feeling contrived, terse without feeling emaciated, and revelatory without feeling exploitative. His ability to slip subtle twists into unexpected moments in his narratives and lyrics creates hooks that sink into and bait one’s own memories. His knack for juxtaposing details of inner and outer worlds is a case study in the tried and true axiom “make the personal universal.”

On the album, Hendra, Ben’s finesse with both dance and rock music manifests in his skillful meshing of tropes and choice of partners - electronic producer Ewan Pearson adds a crystalline digital sonic sheen, Suede’s Bernard Butler adds some analog pop muscle; and David Gilmour’s slide guitar imparts a dreamy grandeur to “The Levels”. “Nathaniel” is a swinging up-tempo ditty inspired by a post-mortem graffiti tribute he rode past in Oregon. Using sunny, ‘70s West Coast-style vocals and guitar, Watt crafts a meditation on how the tragedy of strangers becomes political theater, albeit in a manner that is blissfully more palatable than this description could ever. On “Matthew Arnold’s Field”, a keyboard and vocal driven ballad, he describes scattering his father’s ashes in a deeply symbolic environment without losing sight of other people around him, among them a couple in the thick of mundane life, having tea and eating sandwiches. The permeability between life and death is also explored on “The Gun” which tackles the controversial theme of violence without hopping on a soap box, instead highlighting the ironic horror weapons advocates experience when the karmic woods come to their gated McCastles, as it were. The title track “Hendra” has a mystical, David Crosby vibe to it. On “Young Man’s Game”, a bar room sing-along waiting to be tapped, Watt muses on aging and his place in the (music) world as he’s evolved from a multitasking boy Midas to a wizened elder – one pretty content with lot in life.

At times Hendra evokes the blue-eyed soul, pastoral folk and electronic noodling of boom bap aficionado Scritti Politti or Scottish troubadour King Creosote who also delved into electronic pop with Jon Hopkins. In other places, it invokes Neil Young, John Lennon, Santana. Through it all, however, it’s Watt’s story and he tells it his way. "Words, beats and notes - it's all we have. It's just a question of playing them in what feels like the right order at the right time, and at the moment, 'Hendra' just feels right," Watt has said. We couldn’t agree more.

Watt will be doing a short tour of the US in June. Check his site for details.
http://benwatt.com/dates

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Eric Holder Trial Date Could Coincide With Anniversary Of Nipsey Hussle’s Murder

A trial date has reportedly been set for Eric Holder, the man accused of killing Nipsey Hussle. Holder’s two-week trial is likely to begin in early April and is expected to end by April 14, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry said in court on Wednesday (Feb. 19).

There’s a possibility that the trail could start in late March, which would coincide with the one-year anniversary of Hussle’s murder.

Judge Perry noted the seriousness of the case while addressing Holder in court. “These cases take time to get ready for trial,” Perry said according to the New York Daily News. “You have a right to a speedy trial.”

The case has been continued until March 18. Perry told Holder that the court would its best to begin the trial within 30 days. Holder agreed to the continuance and is scheduled to return to court next month.

Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, was gunned down in the parking lot of his South Los Angeles clothing store on March 31, 2019. Holder was arrested two days later in Bellflower, Calif., which is roughly 20 miles away from the murder scene.

Last November, Judge Perry denied a motion to have two of Holder's charges dismissed sighting that there was enough evidence to go to trial. Holder, 30, has pleaded not guilty to one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder, one count of assault with a firearm, and one count of possession of a firearm by felon.

Holder allegedly reached out to a podcaster last week and vowed to share his story after the trial.

If convicted, Holder faces a maximum of life in prison.

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LeBron James Sets Children's Book For Release This Summer

A man of many talents, LeBron James is adding author to his stacked resume. According to Entertainment Weekly, the three-time NBA champion joined literary forces with HarperCollins Publishers to create a children's book titled I PROMISE. The book will be released in August.

"Books have the ability to teach, inspire, and bring people together. That's why these books, and the opportunity to get children and parents reading together, mean so much to me," he said. "Most importantly, we wanted to make sure these stories are ones that every single kid can see themselves in. I PROMISE is powerful in that way and I can't wait for people to read it." On Instagram, James expounded upon his statement, hoping that the text will inspire its young readers and encourage the next game-changer.

"Man, the beauty of this is the process in how we got here," he wrote. "Never settling no matter the opportunities or chapters we add to this journey and now we get to share our promise and our story with kids and families everywhere. I can’t wait for everyone to read this, share this, feel empowered, and strive for greatness the same way my kids from Akron do every day." The book is illustrated by Nina Mata and will focus on giving back to communities and a reminder to always bet on yourself.

 

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Our own children’s book⁉️ What!! @ljfamfoundation @ipromiseschool Man, the beauty of this is the process in how we got here. Never settling no matter the opportunities or chapters we add to this journey and now we get to share our promise and our story with kids and families everywhere. I can’t wait for everyone to read this, share this, feel empowered, and strive for greatness the same way my kids from Akron do every day. 🙏🏾 Middle school edition next. 👀 👑 @harpercollins

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on Feb 18, 2020 at 9:10am PST

EW also notes the book will be followed by "a middle-grade novel" in 2021. The news follows another feat for the pro-athlete off the hardwood. After opening a public elementary school in his home state of Ohio in 2018, James' self-titled foundation partnered with Kent State University to offer free tuition for four years to the school's first graduating class.

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Pop Smoke Dies At 20 After Home Invasion

On Wednesday morning (Feb. 19), it was reported that rising rapper Pop Smoke was fatally shot during a home invasion, TMZ reports. The incident occurred around 4:30 a.m. in Hollywood Hills, California.

Local law enforcement has launched a search for two male suspects who were seen fleeing the scene of the crime on foot. According to ABC Los Angeles, the residence where the murder occurred is located on the 2000 block of Hercules Drive. Pop Smoke was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

Born Bashar Barakah Jackson, the 20-year-old was on the rise in the music world, breaking onto the scene with 2019's anthem "Welcome To The Party." The Brooklyn native received acclaim for his Meet The Woo project, having recently followed it up with Meet The Woo Vol. 2 mixtape, that debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200. The "Dior" rapper also announced a "Meet The Woo Tour" that was slated to kick-off on March 2, beginning the ascent of a fulfilling career.

This story will be updated as more information is made public.

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